Constitutional Provisions

The 1953 Constitutional Act of Denmark addresses a number of human rights in its Part VIII, but not the rights to life or to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Section 79 provides that:

Citizens shall, without previous permission, be at liberty to assemble unarmed. The police shall be entitled to be present at public meetings. 

The Constitutional Act does not specifically regulate the use of force by the police or other law enforcement agencies. 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1950 European Convention on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Chapter 4 of the 2004 Danish Police Activities Act (as amended) regulates the use of force by the police in Denmark. Section 16 of the Act provides:

(1) The police may use force only if necessary and justified and only by such means and to such extent as are reasonable relative to the interest which the police seek to protect. Any assessment of the justifiability of such force must also take into account whether the use of force involves any risk of bodily harm to third parties.

(2) Force must be used as considerately as possible under the circumstances and so as to minimise any bodily harm.

Other sections detail under what specific circumstances the police are permitted to use specific weapons: firearms, batons, dogs and chemical irritants. With respect to firearms, Section 17 reads as follows:

(1) Firearms may only be used: 
(i)    to avert an ongoing or imminent dangerous assault on a person; 
(ii)    to avert other imminent danger to the lives of persons or of such persons incurring grievous bodily harm; 
(iii)    to avert an ongoing or imminent dangerous attack on important institutions, companies or facilities; 
(iv)    to secure the apprehension of persons who have or are suspected on reasonable grounds of having commenced or committed a dangerous assault on another person unless the risk that such persons will commit another such assault is deemed not to exist; 
(v)    to secure the apprehension of persons who have or are suspected of having commenced or committed a dangerous attack on important institutions, companies or facilities; or
(vi)    to secure the apprehension of persons who have or are suspected of having committed serious crimes against the State’s independence and security, against its Constitution or supreme authorities of the State.

(2) Before the police fire shots involving a risk of harm to a person, the person must be informed in so far as possible, first by shouted warnings and then by warning shots, that the police intend to fire if police orders are not observed. It must also be ensured, in so far as possible, that the person is able to observe the order.

(3) In case of an obvious risk of hitting third parties, shots may only be fired as a last resort. ...

(5) If police shooting has caused harm to a person, the person must immediately be examined by a doctor.

These provisions are more permissive than international law allows. Firearms may only be used where necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.

Police Oversight

Denmark has a new, independent police oversight mechanism. Section 118 of the 2018 Danish Administration of Justice Act establishes the Danish Independent Police Complaints Authority (DIPCA) as an independent authority to deal with complaints about the police and investigate criminal cases against police personnel. Section 1020a(2) of the Act provides that the Independent Police Complaints Authority shall also initiate investigations when a person has died or has been seriously injured as a result of police interference or while in custody. 

Caselaw

Global

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Denmark, the Human Rights Committee did not directly address police use of force.

Regional

There has been no case concerning police use of force before the European Court of Human Rights in recent years.

Downloads

1953 Constitutional Act of Denmark

2004 Danish Police Activities Act (as amended) (original Danish text)

2018 Danish Administration of Justice Act

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Denmark (2016)